The introduction of the new £9,000 fees and changes to government funding for Higher Education appear to have had a marked effect on Clearing and the behaviour of applicants this year across the sector.
By midday on A level results day calls into the University were up by 30% compared with last year and unique users on the university web site were up by 124%. However, UCAS data suggests that universities have accepted more students who have dropped grades than in previous years with the result that there are 13% fewer students in Clearing this year. It also appears that many more students who have fallen short of their grades are considering retakes this year than in the past.
Our strategy over the last few years has been (and continues to be) to increase our entry tariff and our league table position and so we have, therefore, not been able to offer places to students with low tariff levels. We have also been anxious to avoid over recruiting due to the financial penalties. As a result we have recruited fewer students than at this time last year, although we are continuing to receive new calls and make new offers, and will be recruiting up to enrolment. Nevertheless, we are likely to be welcoming fewer students this September.
The new funding arrangements introduced this year separates out AAB+ students from our Student Number Control Limit (SNCL) target and I am pleased to report that despite the challenges mentioned above we are getting close to our AAB+ target and are continuing to attract high quality applicants who want to study here.
Given just how much the Higher Education landscape is changing I do believe that we will need to fundamentally review our recruitment practices and procedures in the coming months, which we will do as part of the Professional Service reviews in October, to ensure that we are competitive and as efficient and effective as possible for the challenges ahead. I am confident we can meet those challenges.
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all staff who have been involved directly in Clearing and all those supporting them during this important and busy time of year.